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Out in the Vortex: Abrahm DeVine and the Fight for Queer Athletes


In the hyper-competitive world of collegiate and professional swimming, standing out is a given. But for Abrahm DeVine, his journey to becoming the fastest openly gay American swimmer involved far more than just speed and skill. It required courage, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to authenticity. His story, now being brought to life through an upcoming film, serves as a powerful testament to the challenges and triumphs of queer athletes in an often hostile environment.




Coming Out in the Spotlight

Abrahm DeVine's decision to come out as gay was a watershed moment not just for him but for the entire sports community. As an elite athlete at Stanford University, DeVine faced immense pressure both in and out of the pool. His coming out was met with support from many quarters, but it also exposed him to the deeply ingrained homophobia within the institution and the broader swimming world.

Explicitly homophobic slurs in team members' conversations made DeVine hesitate about coming out during his junior year. Team members often appealed to masculine stereotypes to motivate swimmers, mocking topics such as fragility and privilege as concerns of social justice warriors. Before coming out publicly, DeVine sought help from one of his coaches, who referred him to a gay Stanford alumnus. However, this former swimmer outed DeVine to the team without his consent.

Despite his record-breaking performances and dedication to the sport, DeVine encountered a barrage of discrimination that eventually led to his departure from competitive swimming. His journey underscores the stark reality that even the most talented athletes can be sidelined by prejudice.




Isolation and Confrontation

After coming out, DeVine began to feel increasingly isolated from the macho culture of athletes, experiencing a more evident dissonance with his current life, despite being the most successful swimmer on the team. He complained to Stanford Athletics, only to be sent to therapy instead of receiving genuine support. During the world championships, DeVine had a confrontation with the USA team coach over homophobic and misogynistic jokes. The coach criticized him for going out instead of supporting other colleagues in their final race, and paradoxically, DeVine was the only one penalized, despite not being the only one involved.

Later on, DeVine was kicked off the Stanford team amid his graduation and just before training for the Olympics. He publicly denounced being barred from the university’s pro-training group for homophobic reasons. In response, Stanford issued an official statement denying the accusations and avoiding any explanation for their decision, effectively sweeping the critique of institutional homophobia under the rug.



Struggle for Justice and Redemption

After graduating from Stanford earlier than planned, DeVine joined the Elite Team in San Diego to continue training for the Olympics. However, during the Olympic Trials, he was disqualified for a technical error in a flip turn while winning his race and about to qualify for the finals. Notably, every other disqualification in that competition was overturned, leaving DeVine to suspect that his disqualification was related to the previous issues with the coach during the World Championships.



A Story of Healing and Resistance

The trauma of leaving the sport he loved could have silenced DeVine. Instead, he chose to turn his pain into a platform for change. The film currently in production about his life and experiences aims to shine a light on the pervasive issues of homophobia and discrimination in sports. Through this cinematic endeavor, DeVine hopes to inspire other queer athletes to live their truth and fight for their rightful place in the sports world.

This film is not just a personal catharsis for DeVine; it is a call to action. In a time when attacks on trans and other queer athletes are increasing, it is crucial to speak out and advocate for a more equitable and inclusive sports environment. DeVine’s story is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of standing up against injustice.



Connecting with Queer Archiving

The production of this film aligns with my own passion for queer archiving, a theme that has been central to my cinematographic exploration in films such as "Sexile" and "Villa Rosa." Documenting and preserving the stories of queer individuals is vital for creating a more inclusive historical record and for providing representation to those who have long been marginalized. Through this film, DeVine’s journey will be archived not just as a personal story of resilience but as a crucial chapter in the broader narrative of LGBTQ+ athletes fighting for equality.

DeVine’s bravery has already made waves beyond the swimming lanes. His openness and advocacy have started important conversations about the need for systemic change in sports institutions. By highlighting his struggles and triumphs, the film seeks to challenge the status quo and push for policies that protect and support all athletes, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The production of this film is a significant step toward greater visibility and representation for queer athletes. It provides an opportunity for audiences to engage with the realities faced by athletes like DeVine and to understand the broader implications of discrimination in sports. More importantly, it offers hope and validation to young queer athletes who might be grappling with their identities and the fear of acceptance.

Teaching me how to swim has become another way for DeVine to find reconciliation with his passion. This personal interaction underscores the broader message of the film: the power of resilience, the importance of advocacy, and the necessity of solidarity in the face of discrimination.

Looking Ahead



As the film about Abrahm DeVine's journey evolves, it is poised to become a landmark in the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights in sports. His resilience not only paves the way for future generations of queer athletes but also serves as a powerful reminder that change is possible when we dare to live our truth and fight for a fairer, more inclusive world.

In the end, Abrahm DeVine’s story is about more than just swimming. It is about the enduring human spirit, the quest for equality, and the courage to be oneself. Through this film, we are invited to witness his journey, celebrate his victories, and join him in advocating for a sports world where everyone, regardless of their identity, can compete and thrive without fear of discrimination.

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